Newspaper article

Hagel-McCain 'Rift': What It Tells Us about Journalism

Newspaper article

Hagel-McCain 'Rift': What It Tells Us about Journalism

Article excerpt

Mark Salter, a former top aide to Sen. John McCain, has written a thought-provoking piece for Real Clear Politics about one of the less appealing aspects of journalism - the felt need to write a piece when you have nothing reliable to say.

Salter's piece is headlined: "Hagel and McCain: The Truth About Their 'Rift.'"

Salter actually doesn't know the truth about their rift, nor even if there really is much of a rift. McCain and cabinet nominee Chuck Hagel used to be quite close. The two men shared searing combat experience in Vietnam and reputations as maverick Republicans who spoke their minds.

Now they are not so close. McCain has indicated that he has "serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years." As the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, which will hold hearings on Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary, and as a leading Republican voice on foreign and military policy, McCain's attitude toward Hagel's nomination is of some import.

In 2000, when McCain made his first run for president, Hagel was a national campaign co-chair. By 2008, when McCain tried again, Hagel didn't even endorse him during the primaries.

In a piece for the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, a top political reporter, explored what happened to the friendship which, he says, has "collapsed" and "dissolved entirely." Cillizza quotes several people, although he doesn't identify any of them. Political and policy differences are enumerated. Both men voted to authorize the Iraq war, but Hagel became a skeptic. When McCain pushed for additional troops, Hagel said the so-called "surge" would be "the biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam." One of Cillizza's unnamed sources says McCain took Hagel's position on the surge as a "personal insult."

Maybe that's all true. Salter, a long-time McCain staffer, is skeptical. He decided to write his own piece in which he divulged that Cillizza called him for input and:

I told him I don't know why they no longer socialized; there had never been any private or public rupture in their friendship. They had never fallen out after an argument over a personal or political matter. Neither of them had knowingly offended the other.

The two men were close before, during and briefly after McCain's presidential campaign in 2000. Then, over a period of a year or so, they stopped traveling overseas together and socializing much outside the Senate. By the end of 2002, they remained on friendly terms, and still do, but their friendship could no longer be accurately described as close. …

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